Modern-day cancer therapy is witnessing a paradigmatic shift, away from globally toxic chemo- and radiotherapy, towards the use of non-genotoxic targeted small molecules and antibodies. These efforts are rooted in a steadily deepening molecular understanding of the patho-mechanisms underlying malignant transformation. The advent of modern technologies, particularly genome sequencing and novel approaches in high-performance computational biology, has revolutionized cancer research. These knowledge gains led to the development and clinical implementation of numerous novel drugs that specifically target genotype-stratified tumor entities. Prime examples are the use of specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors for EGFR-mutant-, EML4-ALK-rearranged- or ROS1-rearranged tumors, as well as BCR-ABL-fused leukemia.
These groundbreaking developments necessitate a profound change in the training and education of young oncologists. These physicians need solid clinical skills and a thorough training in molecular cancer research. Thus, we carefully assembled a peerless consortium of clinical opinion leaders and internationally competitive cancer researchers to create a structured training program for physician scientists that aim for a career in translational oncology.
Our consortium is tailored to address the question of clonal evolution and selection in response to targeted therapy. We consider this overarching question to be the major challenge in modern-day cancer therapy, as the majority of targeted approaches are eventually limited by the occurrence of acquired drug resistance. Our proposal is a cross-faculty joint effort of the members of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at the comprehensive cancer center of the University Cologne (CIO-CCIR) and also involves a non-university research center (Max-Planck-Institute for Metabolism Research).